The Once and Future King Part 1, Chapters 20-21 Summary

T. H. White

Part 1, Chapters 20-21 Summary

Six more years pass. Sir Grummore continues his occasional visits to the castle of Sir Ector, and King Pellinore continues to chase the Questing Beast. Kay prepares to become a full-fledged knight, which brings the resentment of the Wart. He knows that the highest level he will ever reach is to be Kay’s squire. He goes to sit in the kitchen, feeling like Cinderella. Merlyn suddenly appears, and the Wart asks him what will happen during Kay’s knighting ceremony. Merlyn explains that it involves ritual bathing and blessing, as well as a night-long vigil of prayers. The Wart says that if he were made knight, he would do his vigil by himself, praying that God would let him encounter all the evil in the world in his own person, so that if he conquered there would be none left. Merlyn tells him that this is presumptuous, for he would be conquered and made to suffer for it. He asks the boy what he would do if he were not allowed as a knight to stand against all the evil in the world. The Wart replies that he could ask for it. Merlyn replies that he could indeed ask, and he sits by the fire thinking about this.

The Wart resents the fact that Kay no longer lets him hang around, even though he is supposed to be Kay’s squire. Merlyn tells Wart that his education is almost over. Once Kay becomes a knight, the Wart will be a squire and Merlyn will go off on his next duty. He can change the Wart into a creature only one more time, since the magic is almost used up. He decides to turn the Wart into a badger, since that is the most knowledgeable animal he knows except for the owl Archimedes. The Wart changes form and sets off in search of the badger. He encounters a hedgehog and threatens to eat it, but the hedgehog pathetically begs for mercy. The Wart decides to let him go and then sets off to meet the badger. When the Wart explains why Merlyn sent him, the badger invites him in and asks about his interests. The Wart explains that he is mostly interested in natural history, so the badger tells him a story of creation, when God created all the eggs and brought the embryos before him. He made the Man embryo to be the king of all the other embryos, though he would be in embryonic form for as long as he lived.